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Many Weber State University students continue to pay it forward after graduation by giving back to WSU. Jane Breen Holmes made sure she helped those who came after her by creating a scholarship geared toward single mothers wanting to go back to school. The scholarship started in 2005 and continued after Holmes’s death in 2011.
Women’s Center director Carol Merill said she never met Holmes but, through their phone calls, could tell she had a beautiful and generous heart.
“I can tell you that the donor is gracious, delightful, funny and genuine. Those would be the words I would describe her,” Merrill said. “In talking to her, the type of recipient she was looking for was someone who was committed to their education and committed to their children.”
Holmes’s husband Dan said his wife wanted to grant a scholarship to someone who made their children a priority in their life as well as their education.
Holmes graduated from WSU with an earth science and secondary teaching degree. She went on to become a teacher.
Botany professor Eugene Bozniak said that when Holmes was in his environment class, she was an unconventional thinker, always looking for new ways to get things done.
“She was a super student who really got interested in the environmental movement,” Bozniak said. “It was a pleasure to have her in the class, because she really became excited about that course. She was definitely her own person, strong-willed. I think she would have fought hard for women’s rights; that I remember about her.”
After Holmes’s death, her husband and family planted her favorite flower on campus. Outside of the Women’s Center is a patch of daffodils, planted in Holmes’s honor and memory.
“The scholarship was based on the fact that when Jane went back to school as a 37-year-old, she spent most of her study hours on campus in the Women’s Center there,” Dan Holmes said. “Jane went out, got her degree, and she did extraordinarily well, but she remembered always her appreciation for what the single moms were dealing with. She started that scholarship to help those students directly through the Women’s Center.”
After Holmes died, her husband and family agreed to continue the scholarship in her memory. It aims to provide direct financial assistance to single parents who need to continue as full-time students. The scholarship offers the recipient $10,000. So far, Holmes’s family has donated up to $25,000.
Single mothers mentor Natalie Laramie said that when she came back to school, she had three children at home, her oldest also attending college, and being a Jane Breen Holmes Scholarship recipient relieved a lot of her worries about paying for school.
“Just having my education paid for is great, but there are so many other things that come into being a single mom,” Laramie said. “Coming back to school was a really big decision, because I knew I would be relying on the financial aid (and) whatever I could earn here, and it takes a lot to keep a little family going.”
Laramie said this scholarship allowed her to come to school last semester. It has also impacted her because of the story behind the scholarship.
“Both he (Dan Holmes) and his son and daughter have donated toward his scholarship,” Merrill said. “Dan has very graciously maintained the large amount, but there has been additional contributions from family members. Jane had such a commitment to Weber State and Dan has such a commitment to Jane, so there is that beautiful cycle that has come full circle.”